Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bunnings Hawthorn!

Bunnings Hawthorn is now open.

When Bunnings Melbourne CBD closed and the site was redeveloped, part of me died. The closest Bunnings was either Northland or Box Hill, and both were 10K away. When I sold my car in March 2007, visiting either of these was out of the question. The only choice was to catch a train to Nunawading and then walk 2k to the closest one there.

Port Melbourne opened but that was also inconvenient (though it is close to the 109 tram).

So when we discovered that the site being redeveloped on Burwood Road (a mere 900 metres from my house), I prayed, and I prayed. I'm not religious, but my prayers were answered, because one day I walked by and saw a big sign proclaiming "Bunnings Warehouse" amongst the construction. And I shouted to the stars because it was GOOD.

Since the store was apparently finished on the outside a month or so ago, I've been watching, and waiting. Finally I could see shelving inside... and then stock starting to go up. So I knew it was only a matter of time before it would open... they would be mad not to open and take advantage of the Christmas silly season, GFC be damned.

Well this morning I logged into the Bunnings Website as I've been doing for the last month. I typed in my postcode... and my heart missed a beat, because it was OPEN.

Finally tonight we arrived there for a brief dalliance at 8:10PM. 50 minutes (they closed at 9) was nowhere near long enough. We (my partner and I) were in a trance... it was like manna from heaven. All the shelves, full of wonderful, wonderful products. A MASSIVE outdoor garden section at the rear. Lighting, paint, hardware, plumbing... it's simply to good to be true. All sorts of cool home automation stuff. I did not even dare enter the power tool section as I may have collapsed.

We were in such a state that we did not even make one purchase, because there was just to much choice to be had. We have had to come home to collect ourselves and will try again tomorrow night.

The place however was basically deserted when we got there, so to have the entire place almost to ourselves was rather amazing as well. Highly recommended.

One thing is for sure... with this, and the impending opening of MSY in North Melbourne, I never have to go to zone 2 again if I don't want to.

Thankyou to the retail gods for blessing this hardware junky. I don't however think my credit card feels the same way.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Connex Oaks Day Stuff up

Oh no, some poor overdressed sods were inconvenienced and suddenly Kosky has a rail inquiry. Of course if a few trains are late or cancelled under normal circumstances, nobody seems to bat an eyelid, but when it effects Victorias multi million dollar racing industry we all have to stop what we're doing and ask why. Thank goodness there is no train to Crown Casino, one can but imagine what would happen if there was a problem with that.

Monday, September 1, 2008

How Slack have I been.

Hm, well the Melbourne Reviewer has been incredibly slack lately. In more ways than one.

Basically, I blame Melbourne. Or, more correctly, our disgustly horrible weather.

It's just been horrible lately... it seems like winter has no end. Dreary skies. Cold Mornings. Sniffles and flu and sickness. It's really very depressing.

What was worse is we went on a little holiday to Byron Bay, where during the day at least it was just gorgeous, and we actually wore shorts.

But the worst part was coming back to Melbourne. It was raining, freezing cold. Urgh.

I do really love this city, but sometimes it's just an horrific place to be.

On Sunday we went to visit a friend, and for a few brief minutes the sun came out and it was wonderful. Hopefully now that spring is here this London style doldrum will start to vanish.

Melbourne Reviewer, reviewing... well, nothing, really.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Iphone 3G... The Melbourne Reviewer has one!

Okay, so here's my review of the 3g Iphone. Probably showing a tad of bias but stay with me anyway, also I go on a bit, so sorry about that. Also it's not technically Melbourne, but plenty of Melbournians lined up just like me on Friday morning!

I was always an "Apple Hater" and I resisted getting an ipod for a long time, (I had Creative MP3 Players for ages). I couldn't understand using a Mac and thought all those people were nuts.

Now (it's even a shock to me) I figure there is space in the world for both. I've used the Macs that belong to friends. I doubt I'd ever get used to one, but hey if that's what they want to spend their money on then good for them. Anyway last year I got my first Ipod 80gb Video which was great, then switched to an 8gb Nano earlier this year. But Once I saw a first Gen Iphone and played with it, I knew I had to have one.

Was it worth standing for almost three hours in the cold? Well probably not really, considering the very next day I saw them on a shelf of one particular Apple related shop (albeit they are the dealer of a different carrier to my preferred one).

And of course it depends who you are and what you plan on doing with it. For me this is (almost) the perfect device.

The iphone has a lot of strengths, but also a number of weaknesses and annoyances as well.

Strengths> The interface. It is simply a joy to use. The touch screen defines touch screens. I've had two previous Touchscreen PDA's (imate JAMin and Imate JAM), and they are nothing compared to this, and no stylus is required. I was worried about the onscreen keyboard... I needn't have been. It does take a bit of getting used to but after about three days I have no issues with it. Sure, I'm not going to be writing essays or ultra long emails, but it's more than useable, and just as good (if not better) than the touch screen keyboards on other pda's that require a stylus.

Mobile Safari. Internet Browsing is great on the iphone due to two things: The screen size, which lets you see just a little bit more of a real website, and the ability to easily change orientation of the screen from portrait to landscape thanks to the built in accelerometer. You are easily able to view full web pages (not just the mobile versions), pan around them if necessary, and zoom in and out thanks to the two fingers "pinch" gesture.

Safari lets you view PDF's, Excel and Word Documents (up to and including Office 2007). So if someone emails you a PDF, or even a link to one, it is actually readable. All the same rules apply, zoom in, out, scroll up and down, left and right.

Annoyance: Safari doesn't appear to remember logins for forums, websites etc.
Also, famously, it doesn't (yet) support Flash. This was a sore point in the first gen iphone and it's pretty silly that they haven't included it this time round. There are rumours of an iphone version of flash coming out shortly (hopefully).

Safari has full bookmarking capabilities, and complete history capabilities as well, which are easy to use and understand.

There is a feature with like a "lineup" of recently viewed websites with thumbnails of that site, choose the one you want and it loads it up again for you.

Also, bookmarks can be set as icons on the home screen, for instance I use Tram Tracker, and the Mobile Age.

Your Homescreen can have up to 9 separate pages of icons, so you can easily set up your most visited mobile sites for ready access when you are out and about. It's a simple matter of scrolling left and right on the homescreen to access the other available screens. If you want to move icons around or between the home screens, you hold down an icon and then they "jiggle", letting you move them all around, however you want.

Email. You are able to easily setup an Exchange account (assuming your exchange server/IT area supports the device. I'm perfectly happy not having access to work emails however). Also Gmail works beautifully via IMAP. You can of course use standard POP accounts and the new MobileMe service from Apple (though at $119 a year, you'd need to think seriously before wanting that I think). YahooMail is another option.

When reading emails all the same scrolling rules apply. Weblinks, PDF's and Excel/Word documents all open up as viewable (but not editable). I predict some sort of iphone version of Office if Microsoft can swallow it's pride, or maybe openoffice? Haven't read anything about this but it makes sense.

When composing emails, if you start to enter in a name of someone who has an email registered in your contacts, it's like outlook and automatically suggests a name without having to type in the entire address.

It has a perfectly good Calculator, which in portrait mode is just a standard calculator, and in landscape mode is a fully fledged scientific calculator for those that want one.

The camera is great for happy snaps. Some people complain that a lot of other phones have better cameras, more megapixels etc (the iphone is only 2.0 megapixels). I'm of the view that if you want to take real photos, buy a real camera. This is for happy snaps, and taking photos of people for your contacts (which works well), and if Aliens happen to land, you can take a shot of that too, though people will probably think it's 'shopped.

Google Maps and the A-GPS. This is simply AWESOME, works beautifully. However, it CHEWS through the data, as all data is pulled down from Google's server. If you aren't connected via some free wifi, be careful. Although it can be used for tracking you as you drive/walk etc, this would very easily eat through various available 3G data plans. Be warned, or risk appearing on Today Tonight with a second mortgage, depending on who your carrier is. It's probably best used sparingly for finding simple directions and local businesses etc in whatever area you are in. The A-GPS works great and you have your position very, very quickly, far better than any other GPS I've used before. I'm hoping for an iphone version of Tom tom or similar, which is rumoured to be in the works.

The Appstore. This is the highlight so far of the iphone 3G. The Appstore was released on the same day and looks very promising. This isn't just a phone, or a PDA... this is a portable touchscreen computer.

There are a number of free apps, some of them good, some of them bad. Some of them are just geekily awesome for those that are into such things.
Some free ones I've downloaded: Phonesaber (also available for N95). Search your feelings, Obiwan! Shazam: Hold your iphone up to a song playing on the radio... it will tell you what the song is, and point you to a link where you can buy it on itunes. Requires data connection, but it actually works.There are Facebook, Twitter and Myspace clients that access cutdown versions of those sites. I've only tried facebook but it seems to work well and you don't get alot of the superfluous stuff that clutters facebook up.

There are heaps of others, and lots and lots of games. I've only tried one or two of the free games (imaze, ball bearing rolling around inside a maze). The reviews I read of the pay games are good though and apparently put other mobile gaming platforms to shame, as far as graphics and sound goes anyway. I'm still to be convinced on controlling games as the game genres seem limited to racing type games where you use the accelerometer to steer.It's obviously early days for the appstore, but I would say we've only scratched the surface of what the device can do.
Ipod... well, not much to say here. You've got all your standard ipod functionality, coverflow is great and very pretty. The headphones have a microphone built in for handsfree phone calls, and the microphone is also a button. one click pauses music, two clicks moves onto the next track. When the phone rings your music fades out and you can then click to answer.
Watching video's is great. Again, the iphone doesn't support divx (come on apple... even xbox360 supports it now). You can however use something like the free "videora" converter to get divx files playable on your iphone. And they are great to watch on the wide screen.

Phone functionality. Well, it is the iPHONE, though reading what I've said so far you'd almost forget you could make calls on it.

It works well, with 3G the calls are of great quality. There is speakerphone functionality as well. you can browse to contacts, make notes, even browse the web while in a call. Finding contacts is easy, contacts have a myriad of fields and options, you can assign separate ringtones to separate contacts. When syncing with itunes on the same PC as Outlook you are able to import all your contacts from there. You can also, for instance, sync all your contacts at work, and then sync your music separately at home.

You can also set up a list of favourite contacts for fast dialling, this is as close as the phone gets to speed dialling.

For those who use it, there is currently no voice dialling. doesn't bother me, but it might bother some.

You can't change SMS/Alert tones. There are some to choose from, but the choice is limited. Hopefully jailbreaking (as I right this, it's due out any moment from what I'm reading) will workaround this.

Ringtones. The Apple way is to buy ringtones from itunes. You can't by default use any of your own music/sounds. But there is a very simple process to create your own ringtones which I won't go into here, but a quick google search should find it online.

No clipboard... no task switching. If you click on a link in email, it opens safari. You then have to go out of safari, and back into email to get back to your message. This has been a sore point among many, but from what I've read it's a fundamental of the operating system that it doesn't do task switching (well, properly anyway).

You can however listen to music and do other things at the same time, so there is at least some multitasking.

The physical unit. Fingerprint city. I got the white one, which doesn't show prints or greasy stains as easily as the black one. But I went straight out and bought myself a skin because I know I'm going to drop it at some point and i want it protected. Also I got a screen protector with the skin. Reading online, lots of people say that you shouldn't need one since the screen is glass, but I'd prefer to have one anyway, it is still easily cleanable. You understand why they give you the cleaning cloth only a few minutes after you first pick the thing up.

You can load copies of photos through itunes from your PC taken with other cameras onto the iphone for backup purposes or to show off pics of babies, cats, tin dogs to your friends when out and about.

It shows up as a camera in Windows Explorer so you can easily import photos to your PC, but like other ipods it does NOT show as mass storage device. Also, syncing (loading of music) is fairly slow.

I won't discuss the merits of all the various plan offerings, as that's a veritable minefield of information. I will just say that you should DEFINITELY do you research on all of the available offerings, and then make up your mind based on what you think your usage will involve. Good luck!

Anyway that's probably about it. Am I happy with the device? Mostly, with one or two little niggles as mentioned. I wanted something where I could use the web (easily) when out and about. I had a Nokia 6120 and it's just not that great at it.

Several of my previous phones have had music players, but none of them were very good. It's great having my music and some videos and my phone in the one unit.

Some people don't want or need all this functionality, and if that's the case, then the iphone isn't for you. Is it overhyped? Of course. But you've got to give it to Apple, I don't think I've seen any ads for iphone on TV but they all lined up on Friday morning anyway. And I've just read that one million units sold since Friday world wide. I guess I'm not the only insane one :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Aviary - Victoria Street isn't all Vietnamese

Yet again my friend D organised a wonderful venue for us. The Aviary is in Victoria Street Abbotsford (just down from North Richmond Station).

It's a bit hard to identify what kind of venue this is. Is it a restaurant? Is it a bar? Is it a pub? Or is it a refuge for out of work actors (more on this later).

On arriving we were advised all tables (of which their currently aren't many) were booked but we can find some small tables down the back. They were near the toilets but it wasn't really intrusive at all, it was actually kind of private down there.

The Aviary's speciality is various plates of Tapas, which on a Sunday night are only $5.00 a plate. Three or four plates would be plenty for even the hungriest person I'd wager. But there is also a traditional pub menu of sorts, and so I ordered my staple of a Chicken Parmigiana which was $19.

Well, when it arrived I was simply flabbergasted, it came out on a wooden platter with a massive pile of chips, salad, and the Parma itself was simply gargantuan. The Terminus Hotel in Richmond could definitely learn from this one. As our waitress said (more on this later), "It could feed a small african nation", and I'm inclined to agree with her.

Drank quite a nice red, there's obviously an extensive wine list and every sort of drink you could want. Atmosphere is relaxed and happy. There was a sign up saying that a beer garden was coming (though hopefully not til after winter!) and also there's an upstairs which it would appear is going to be maybe another bar or perhaps more restaurant tables?

Anyway, to our waitress. As soon as we walked in I looked at her and thought "Hm, I know you", but couldn't place where from. But then it hit my like a bolt of lightning. She was an actress in a show that nobody in Melbourne can possibly have seen yet, but the rest of Australia is all over it. This was kind of exciting, but made me wonder... is she down on her luck, or does she own the place? I was to shy to ask and also even mention the show she was in that I can't possibly have seen, though I think she knew that we knew. Personally if confronted by some sort of celebrity in ordinary situations I invariably leave them to their own devices because I doubt there is anything original I could say to them outside of the situation without making myself look like an incompetent dweeb. But she was an excellent waitress.

Anyway, I'm not sure why it's called The Aviary but this is one cage it's a pleasure to be locked up in for a while.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Connex and the Case of the Whiff.

So since I sold my car in March last year, I travel virtually exclusively by Train/Tram (mostly Train).

For those who never use them, Melbourne trains are changing. Since I started using them regularly about 8 years ago, they have changed markedly.

Weekend travel for instance. When I first started, the patronage can be best described as "Bogan Central". It really did appear that public transport at weekends was mostly bogans and drunks and rednecks. At least that's how it appeared to me. I didn't particularly like travelling by train at the weekend.

But as petrol prices have risen, and Melbournes population has grown, this appears to be changing, thankfully for the better. It's simply due to more and more people using trains at the weekends. People who never would have dreamt of it 8 years ago are now forced to either through economic circumstances, or it's simply easier to use the train. I know even if I did have a car (and this is one of the reasons I sold it) I would never dream of driving into the city, and certainly not parking there. It's much easier to jump on the train and get where I need to go.

Peak hour is another example. Again, due to rising petrol prices and other socio-economic reasons, patronage on peak hour trains has increased substantially. I always try not to catch a train after 8AM, as it's just Sardine City onboard. Also, trains seem to run on time (mostly) before 8AM, but after that, it's potluck if they are on time or not. If you have something you have to be on time for, it pays to leave with plenty of margin for lateness, delays sitting for what seems like hours in the Flinders Street Rail Yards, or the odd arrival at Platform 13 which requires a GPS and a knowledge of Stalactites to navigate.

The actual trip in however is fraught with peril. You have the crowd of St Kevin's schoolboys (who thankfully get off at Burnley). There's always the good old person on a mobile phone who seems to forget that most people don't care if somebody forgot to take the mince out of the freezer. And loud Ipod's are prevalent... though because most people have them, most people can't hear everybody elses. Heaven help the one poor sod who doesn't own an Ipod. (The Melbourne Reviewer does own an Ipod, but always tries to turn it down so that it's not audible to other commuters.)

But by far, the most annoying and offensive thing about travelling on Public Transport, at least to me, is The Whiff.

Last time I checked, there seemed to be an absolute plethora of Personal Hygiene products for sale at our supermarkets. There are also other merchants, such as chemists and pharmacies who sell soaps and body washes and things like that, all designed to keep the human body clean.

And, in my experience, most people do succeed. Not that I go around purposefully sniffing people, but if you are jammed up against others in a packed Comeng, it's always much nicer if you can't smell them.

Now, this is where I have to tread lightly. So I'll just say it. People of, shall we say, particular... extractions, well, the do tend to exhibit The Whiff much more so than those who aren't of those... extractions.

That's not to say you don't get it from all sorts. You do get the odd homeless dude who obviously hasn't showered since Big Brother 1 stumble onto the train in a seemingly genius effort to escape the city (though invariably he'll end up in a lockup somewhere out in the burbs).

But those of these particular... extractions, they do tend to emit certain unpleasant aromas on a more regular basis than others.

Recently we've had cab drivers and now oldies baring all at the Flinders street steps. Should we bare all for personal hygiene?

Would it be rude to loudly and jarringly say "Somebody on this train stinks!"? Who would be more embarrassed, me or the stinkee? Would it be offensive to carry a can of Rexona around for such emergencies?

Or should I just attempt to move away (as I have done in the past). Though on packed Sardine trains, this is easier said than done.

I guess in the end it just comes down to another one of the vagaries of Public Transport that you have to put up with. I'm not sure what conclusion we can come to except that we need to grin and bare it.

Meanwhile, beware of, The Whiff.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I would walk 100 Miles

So Saturday night we headed out for drinks and then dinner in the CBD, organised by our friend D. D is very adept at finding and locating Melbournes various trendy bars which seem to occupy the weirdest places. This one was pretty tame, occupying a basement, and it is called The Sweatshop.

We were there so early that for at least half an hour we were the only ones in the place. It's basically crates to sit on, which actually gives you a rather sore butt after a while (or at least it did for me).

The highlight of the venue (at least for some of us... I chose not to partake) was a rediscovery of the Lolly Waters of our youth, in particular West Coast Cooler. For some reason the idea of spending $5 on something that should be much cheaper was incredibly kitsch and so they were downed with much vigour. I chose a glass of Sparkling, and then a glass of some red wine which I didn't even identify, both were nice and got me in a rather happy mood.

Of course the West Coast Cooler Encounter (trying saying that repeatedly after having consumed a few) prompted discussion of various other Lolly Waters (not Alco pops as they have recently and topically become known). In particular the one that sprang to mind was "Wild Peach". The quandary of the night was "is it still available". I've been to several reputable liquor merchants and so far no dice, but then they were reputable liquor merchants. The quest continues.

Anyway after this we headed on to the 100 Mile Cafe. This little gem is literally hidden away from the world... in Melbourne Central, of all places. It's behind a door that doesn't even look like a door, we actually walked past it before realising it was the entrance.

It's a rather large space, very trendily layed out and with large full length windows that afford a view of the Latrobe/Swanston intersection.

The gimmick of the place is that all produce and drinks are sourced within 100 Miles. One of my dining partners (who happens to be my partner) actually used the GPS to confirm this in one or two cases. Though we were left with a question of who grows rice within 100 miles of the Melbourne CBD, a question for another visit.

For Entre I had oysters (of which there were three types). All delicious. Then I had a burger for main, which was simply fabulous, even the chips were nice.

Several of my friends had the dahl, which they said was less than stellar. We all had a dessert of one form or another which was very nice though a tad expensive at $14 each.

The highlight of the place however was the waitress. She was simply fantastic, you could not ask for a better hostess. When asked for advice about meals and then her advice was ignored, she promptly gave as good as she got, which was hilarious. Also, when asked why there was no West Coast Cooler on the menu, she basically said that they wouldn't lower themselves to that. Also, it's probably not from less than 100 miles away!

All in all it was a wonderful evening out. Even better when deciding to catch a train home we only had to wait 3 minutes which was fairly incredible in itself. Thanks Connex.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lygon Street, Carlton - Revenge of the Killer Restaurant Spruikers

If there is one thing I hate, loathe, detest with every fibre of my being, it's restaurant spruikers.

I just can't stand them. If I'm walking up and down a strip and looking for somewhere to eat, I'd like to look at the menu in peace and make my own choice.

But if a restaurant spruiker comes and and tries to get me to go inside, well... I'm sorry. For me, that's an automatic Permanent Rejection.

You should not need to try and drum up custom from passing traffic. Your restaurant should be able to get people to come in simply by being there and by having a menu on the outside, and maybe a specials board. Speaking of which, if a restaurant doesn't have a menu on the outside, well that is also a little suspect as well. Also grounds for Permanent Rejection.

Case in point, Lygon Street, Carlton. It's a very touristy spot, mainly known for it's Italian cuisine. I love Italian food and Lygon Street offers plenty of choices. But half of them will never have my custom, because they have been Permanently Rejected. (see a theme developing here?)

There are however places on Lygon Street with the good sense to trade on looks alone. If a place is packed, I think it's pretty obvious that the food must be good. And the staff aren't wasting time trying to drum up more customers simply because they don't need to, they're usually lined up waiting for a table.

One such place is Papa Gino's. We go there regularly. It's not that fancy, just simple standard Italian food, nice pizzas, nice pasta. It's really a family restaurant. It's not the sort of place you linger for hours, basically we normally eat and leave. And we like it that way.

And I've never seen the staff trying to drag people inside. They're far to busy serving the hoards.

If you're on Lygon Street and feel like Italian Fare, then there are plenty of choices. You may have to wait for Papa Gino's but the wait won't be that long, it's pleasant and quick.

And remember, Permanently Reject any and all spruikers.

It's the only way they'll learn.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour, Melbourne Style.

So last night was Earth Hour. We ate dinner in Lygon Street (to be reviewed later), and then remembered it was Earth Hour at 8pm. So we decided to go into the city and try and see what Earth Hour was going to look like.

Our Prediction was that it probably wouldn't be anywhere near as dramatic as the organisers hoped, and yep, sadly for the environment, we were right.

We went to Birrarung Marr, Melbourne's newest Park, to watch the lights go out. Although virtually deserted, it has a great view of the city skyline.

Anyway we were watching the Giant Sky Wheel and they announced they would be turning their lights off, so good for them.

They did turn their lights off. Also the Art Centre Spire lights went off, the blue neon's on the top of the Rialto Building, as well as lights on top of one or two other buildings.

However if we hadn't been looking for it we probably wouldn't have noticed. All street lights stayed on.

After standing around for five minutes we decided it was a non event, and went to catch a tram home. The trip down Bridge Road shows most stores had left lights on.

On arriving home we left the lights off, but I decided to ring my parents who had arrived home from a trip, and to see if they had their lights off.

Yep, Mum and Dad had their lights off, but were quite happy to tell me they were watching their 50" plasma.

Gotta love Earth Hour.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Grill'd - If only the whole world was like this

One of my personal favourites over the last few years has become Grill'd.

Grill'd is basically a trendy new Burger restaurant. It was first recommended to me by a work colleague. We are lucky in that we have a Grill'd in our suburb (Hawthorn).

Basically the burgers are cheap, and they are GOOD. It's as simple as that. There's a bit of a wait; but it's not to bad. There's a great choice of different juices and soft drinks in the fridge, there's even chips if you're that hungry. But I'd recommend against it. The burger itself really fills you up, and knocks all other fast food style restaurants out of the park.

We went on Monday night, I had the "Mighty Melbourne" burger, and a Cascade Sparkling Ultra C juice. Yummo. My Partner had a Garden Goodness Vegie Burger, which also looks really nice.

The food, although very nice, is not the high point of Grill'd, at least for me.

The main highlight of Grill'd is simple. The staff are all HOT.

For instance Hawthorn Grill'd... well, there is nobody ugly amongst them. They all look like they fell off a Milan catwalk or something. Even the hair looks fantastic, I'm convinced that there's a hairdresser out the back keeping them all looking fabulous. If you want hot young eye candy, this is the place to go, and they even have to be nice to you because you're the customer.

They're buffed and ripped and it's almost criminal that they're working in a burger joint.

And Hawthorn isn't alone in this, I've visited both Richmond, Prahran and Fitzroy Grill'ds and everybody is simply beautiful.

Which leads to the next concern, if you are ugly, or even worse, fat, will you get a job at Grill'd? I don't think so. I want my trendy burger with no fat whatsoever, even on the staff.

We have come to call Grill'd "emo-burger", simply because most of the staff and half the customers have emo hair cuts, but it's not really emo... this is basically the quintessential Generation Y establishment. Being 36, I almost felt like I'm invading some kids' party, but you do feel welcome believe it or not.

And to give them another free plug, Grill'd gave all Movember participants who raised more than $50 free burgers for two and a half weeks, one per day. That's a LOT of free burgers. I had a few of them as a Movember participant and have to say the generosity is pretty amazing.

So, apart from keeping fat people working at McDonalds, Grill'd really can do no wrong. It probably does have an upper age limit of 40... I just wouldn't take my parents here. But if you want a good burger, quick and cheap, you can not go wrong.

Check em out at .

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Vegie Bar - where it's always a full moon

I'm a firm believer that the full moon has major effects on people. The proof is irrefutable really, any sane individual can see that people just go ga ga at that time of the month. But, in some places, it seems like it's a full moon virtually constantly. The Vegie Bar on Brunswick Street Fitzroy is one of those places.

Saturday was rather lovely, we had a birthday of a friend at The Standard Hotel in Fitzroy, 293 Fitzroy Street. (that's Fitzroy street Fitzroy, NOT St Kilda!). The place is just great and I might review it some other time. Anyway rather than eat there my vego partner decided we should visit the Vegie Bar as we hadn't been there for ages.

We kind of have a love/hate relationship with this place. It can be absurdly good, the food being simply outstanding value. But we have had bad experiences there in the past. It all seems to come down to a) who's working in the kitchen, and to a lesser extent b) the waiting staff.

Well Saturday day night the place excelled on both counts. The food was simply delicious. I had two samosa's for entre and then the Mexican Burrito for Main. Both dishes were simply delicious. My Partner had Kofta Balls for entre, and Vegetable Plate for main, and he said they were fantastic.

The place was packed when we arrived, a short wait however landed us a table in the non alcoholic part of the venue. I assume it's due to some vaigary of liquor licencing that the venue is required to have a drinking and non-drinking section, I could probably look it up but it really doesn't matter. The waiter quickly cleaned our table from the previous occupants, there was some friendly banter of the kind that means he likes you (either that or he's just good at his job, maybe both).

Anyway, it was upon sitting down that the full moon factor kicked in. To my left were a couple that seemed to be having an awfully serious deep and meaningful, lots of holding of both of each others hands, whispered conversations. At one point the woman put her head down on her table and her partner gave her a head massage (hell I could have used one). The other issue was that I wasn't sure if he was a guy or a girl, it could easily have been lesbians, he had very long hair and a few random piercings. All in all very strange, if I was wanting a deep and meaningful conversation with my partner I can think of about a million other places I'd rather have it than the Vegie Bar.

But the fun didn't stop there. a young couple arrived sitting to my right. Partner thought they were Swedish... they didn't seem to be talking at all but anyway the guy ordered a pizza. When it arrived he seemed to think it wasn't big enough so it got taken back and later a bigger one came out. When this arrived however something was wrong with it (not sure what) and it got taken back as well. Sadly we didn't see the conclusion of this but both pizza's looked fine to me. Ah well.

After all this, I was still tempted by the bread and butter pudding but was simply to full so had to leave it for another time.

Anyway, the Vegie Bar rarely disappoints for a variety of reasons, though I wouldn't guarantee it, I once had some particularly nasty nacho's which kept us away from the place for six months, though it does seem to have made up for that as the food on saturday was great. But we won't go back for a while, just in case.

The Vegie Bar is at 380 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, you might have to wait for a table, you might have to share a table, but that's half the fun.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Myer Melbourne. Can a renovation save it?

Anyone who has walked through Myer Melbourne in recent times can't help but notice that the place is drastically changing, almost every day. But is it a change for the better, or the last desperate fight for survival?

For me, the rot set in quite some time back, when the 6th floor Lonsdale closed to the public. You can't get up there any more. It used to be the toy department, which has since moved to the Bourke street store. (For any non-Melbournian reading this, Myer Melbourne is split into two stores, Bourke and Lonsdale Street, separated by Little Bourke Street and a three level pedestrian bridge).

This to me was a sign that Myer was simply giving up. You don't close a whole floor of your flagship department store. The only explanation is that the place isn't profitable, and really it's the beginning of the end.

There are many reasons for this of course. Like it or not, retail shops are on borrowed time, which is sad but unavoidably true, and the obvious explanation why is The Internet. Almost everything you can buy at Myer you can probably buy online cheaper, or at least research an alternative retailer that sells it cheaper. There are a multitude of online retailers that sell everything from underwear to vaccuum cleaners and everything in between. I don't have to leave my house or my desk to make a purchase, and why should I? The only real risk you take is buying something that's the wrong size in case of clothing, or it might look crap on you when it looked fabulous on the online model.

Anyway now, Myer Melbourne has basically moved departments around all over the place, and a large section of the Bourke Street store is closed off on all floors from the basement up as they start the renovation. Once the renovation of Bourke Street is finished, the Lonsdale Street store will close permanently, and then who knows what will happen to it. I predict that the Melbourne Central shopping Centre will expand into it, but that's just a guess.

The thing is, they really don't get it. A renovation is all well and good. Go over to the New Myer Melbourne Site to see what's going on.

They can build a wonderful new store with atriums and escalators and all sorts of things like that but it doesn't solve the underlying problem. Stuff is more expensive here, and the service you get isn't worth the premium you pay for it. The only thing that's keeping Myer afloat is that a large percentage off the population don't realise that there's a better way than going out shopping.

But, sadly for Myer, eventually they will, and even atriums and glass lifts probably won't end up saving them.

In the meantime if you are walking through Myer as I often do, go through the Basement as it's much quicker!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Sidney Myer Music Bowl - It's been there for some time

Let us review the residents of "The Melburnian". The Melburnian Apartments are on St Kilda Road, a mere stones throw away from the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. I'm not sure of the construction date, but I seem to recall it being built in the early 2000's... maybe 02/03? Doesn't really matter.

What I do know is that the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was opened by Sir Robert "I was in office longer than Johnny and even twice!" Menzies on February 12, 1959, so it's just under a year away from it's 50th anniversary.

The Music Bowl is perhaps most famous for a massive Seekers Concert with well over 200,000 people in 1967, but it's also known for Carols by Candlelight each year, as well as a series of free concerts by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It's also hosted a myriad of other events, from Pearl Jam to The Doors. So in other words its very well known that it's a popular concert venue, and yes, concerts tend to generate sounds and even noise. I doubt anyone would dispute this.

Which is why I'm totally flabbergasted about this story in today's Age, about residents complaining about loud noise from the Bowl. The story is incredibly biased because it does not even suggest that the residents may be in the wrong. Instead it suggests that events perhaps move to Flemington or elsewhere.

Newflash, people... you perhaps should have done some research before buying your inner city dog box and checked to see if, oh, perhaps, a major outdoor venue was just across the street!

And, in fact, the Melburnian Sales Website even mentions proximity to The Music Bowl as one of the highlights of the complex.

You're living in the inner city for Q's sake. Cities are large, noisy places. Perhaps if you don't like that, go buy an apartment on the Murray or something.

The stupidity of some of these moron's is beyond belief. This is the Melbourne Reviewer, reporting on a bunch of absolute knobs.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Terminus Hotel, down near that Swedish Joint.

A lot of Melbourne pubs have had makeovers, been half demolished, had smoking areas installed, glass and steel and are not cosy at all. I'm not sure why any of them bothered.

The Terminus Hotel in Richmond/Abbotsford (you choose), looks like it has had nothing done to it in years, and it really doesn't matter.

A sickly green colour on the exterior belies the interior which is a bit shoddy, full of weird stuff on the walls. We sat at a very makeshift table bolted to a wall, under a window with Black, star shaped christmas lights to our left, I think they were a reject from Alice Cooper's christmas tree. One of the barmaids looks like Toot Braunstein from the animated comedy "Drawn Together". I have the strangest feeling this was completely on purpose.

We were there for a friends birthday, so a number of us ended up at a table in the courtyard-cum-beergarden. This was of course after playing musical chairs with a woman who's beehive is solely responsible for global warming.

The crowd was fairly mixed, though it was mostly 30-40 somethings. There's also an upstairs area, didn't have a look at this but it looked pretty full as well.

Apart from the jugs of Cascade Light we drank ($12.80 each), we all decided to eat.

And, this, my friends, is the the biggest disappointment of the evening.

The pub is great, the staff are great, the atmosphere is great. There was a DJ outside playing the most weird retro music. There's a wall of fame with young pics of heaps of old time Aussie Celebrities, Bobby Limb, a very young Kamahl, et al.

So when it came time to order I couldn't go past one of my staples, a Chicken Parmagiana. This can very rarely be gotten wrong.

It was a bit pricey, $19.50. I rather naively assumed this was because the thing would have to be completely MASSIVE. I mean, most parmas are massive, but at this price it had to be gargantuan.

Well, when it finally arrived (and yep it did take it's time), the actual chicken parma itself was woefully small. Okay it was tasty, it was a good parma, but it was TINY. I can not over emphasise this point enough. I've had a lot of parmas in my time, hell I've had parma at Crown Casino, (something I'm not proud of) and that was bigger than this.

There were plenty of chips, and a nice little salad on the side, but I wanted a big hunk of meat covered in ham and cheese and tomato. And I got something tiny (albeit yummy). I've had parmas three times the size for half the price.

I know this is a trendy 30/40 something venue, and they figure everyone's coming her to get pissed so who cares what we feed em? The meals were tasty, but as for value, I have to say I was woefully underwhelmed.

But hey, who cares what I think? The place is always packed anyway, just because of where it is and who lives nearby. So, if you happen to be in the neighbourhood picking up yet another Billy Bookcase, why not head over the road for a break, back to the real world. Or, at least in Richmond/Abbotsford (you choose) as real as it gets.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Blue Train - I think I remembered to validate

Well, against my better judgement we went to Southgate again on Friday night (don't worry, this time we paid cash).

We have been to Blue Train several times before and it's always nice. The one thing that sticks out is that it's meant to be notorious for having to wait for a table, but on Friday night we didn't have to wait at all.

The crowd was fairly eclectic but mostly hip young things much like myself and my partner (yeah, right).

I'm pretty sure Blue Train get's most of it's staff from the current Melbourne Backpacker population, but there's nothing wrong with that, staff are very friendly and completely non pretentious, which just makes the entire experience very easy going.

I was tossing up between the fish and chips and the burger, and so asked my waitress what she thought. She recommended the burger, and I quote, "it's really big, not a shitty little patty or anything". So I went with that. Partner ordered Ravioli stuffed with olives and riccotta in light tomato sauce with fresh shaved parmesan.

Both meals, lovely... the burger was indeed very hearty, though Partner berated me for eating it the wrong way (with knife and fork rather than just squishing it down and biting in).

My chips were a little cold... but I really didn't care.

We also ordered a couple of glasses of sparkling wine which made the event even more pleasant.

There was plenty of eye candy around as well, which always makes for an even more enjoyable experience.

All in all Blue Train is a Southgate institution... a balcony table would be nice, but to me it's more fun sitting inside watching the organised chaos of the staff. And I guarantee everytime you go you'll get served by someone different because this probably isn't a long term employer and that is part of it's charm.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Westgate Punt - On your bike!

Well the Australia day long weekend brought gorgeous weather, and partner had been pestering me to try it out, so I finally did.

We rode into the city from home, and then along the Port Melbourne Tram Route Bike path to Port Melbourne. From there it's not far, through Westgate Park, to one of the termination points of the Westgate Punt, just under the bridge.

The Punt runs 10:00-5:00 Weekends and also on Public Holidays, and is $3 each way. On the day we went, there weren't many going over by the time we got there, but coming back we had to wait for two trips before we could fit! The pilot of the punt (if that's his correct title) said that he had never seen it that busy.

After crossing we rode on to Williamstown were we had a nice lunch, bit of a walk around before returning.

As mentioned previously it only runs on weekends, but with petrol prices the way they are, perhaps sometime soon it'll have to run 7 days a week! Apparently it may still be a threatened species however, so try it out while you have the chance. It would be a shame if it stopped running.

For further info, check out the Bicycle Victoria Page

As a cheap and cheerful day out activity if you are anything approaching a cyclist, this can't be beat for the novelty value of going under the Westgate Bridge, and also getting to see a part of Melbourne that not to many people bother with.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

La Camera - The Perils of Visa Debit Card

So on Friday night we thought why not do something different and go with the rest of Melbourne's tourists to Southbank. We knew of the restaurant in Southgate "La Camera". Located on the first level of Southgate it's at the St Kilda Road end, just down the stairs from the entrance near Hamer Hall. It's probably well known as a breakfast/brunch/lunch destination.

The first thing that struck us on being seated was the number of staff. They were simply everywhere... didn't count them but the place seemed packed full of people running around. Just an observation, but it was definitely noticeable.

We ordered Bruschetta for entre, and then I ordered Penne Pollo for main, and partner ordered Risotto. For drinks we both had lemon, lime and bitters.

Penne Pollo was very nice, though a slight bit small... for $16 I would have expected something just a tad larger. Partner said that the Risotto was very nice as well.

Later we had another Lemon Lime and Bitters and I had the house red. I don't know what the house red is, it was okay but nothing to write home about. All in all we mostly enjoyed the meal and I would probably have considered going back there, but...

Our entire meal cost $56.60. I paid by visa debit, not really thinking twice. We chucked a couple of bucks in the tip jar, and that was that.

On tuesday I checked my bank account and realised i had been charged $66.60. At the time I even thought perhaps that was the actual amount, but i was sure it was only 56.60 and on checking the receipt which luckily I hadn't thrown out, yep that was the amount. Not only that, but my account also had an outstanding authorisation fo $56.60 on it... meaning that was money i couldn't access. So all in all I was an extra 66.60 out of pocket, until the authorisation lapses in a weeks time according to my bank. The bank suggested i get a refund for the $66.60 and then they can recharge me the correct amount.

Since I only work five minutes away, I went back in with the receipt today to try and clear it up. They attempted to just give me $10 in change, and then when i tried to explain about the refund, they did this but then of course the refund would take a couple of days to hit so I had to pay the correct amount on another card.

The thing that annoyed me was the attitude of the manager/supervisor on duty. To me it looked as though someone had added $10 to my bill and pocketed the difference hoping I wouldn't notice. The restaurant is obviously popular with tourists and so if someone added ten bucks to a bill every now and again, what's the likely hood that anyone would notice? By the time they got home and checked their statements it's probably weeks later and an extra ten bucks is hardly even going to register, as it was I almost didn't noticed except for the problem with the extra authorisation. The manager didn't even seem to care about this. I got my $10, so I'm happy, they did do the right thing, but who knows who many other people may have been hit by a possibly unethical staff member, and the management doesn't even know?

Anyway apart from this, the restaurant isn't to bad. For details check out . Perhaps pay cash :)